Scouting the Mariners
A look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses in various phases of the game going into the American League Championship Series.
Probable rotation: Today – Right-hander Freddy Garcia. Wednesday – Left-hander John Halama. Friday – Right-hander Aaron Sele. Saturday – Right-hander Paul Abbott. Sunday (if necessary) – Garcia. Tuesday (Oct. 17, if necessary) – Halama. Wednesday (Oct. 18, if necessary) – Sele.
Strengths: Sele and Abbott both looked sharp in Division Series victories over the White Sox. Pitching coach Bryan Price likes the matchup of Garcia against the Yankees because of his velocity and his sinkerball. The Mariners arranged the rotation so Halama, who can’t be intimidated by pitching in his home city (he’s from Brooklyn) or at Yankee Stadium, could pitch twice on the road in the series.
Weaknesses: Even though he struggled his last two starts, the loss of Jamie Moyer to a knee injury hurt the Mariners because they had wanted to start left-handers against the Yankees as many times as possible. Garcia also is a concern after he struggled in Game 1 of the Division Series at Chicago.
Key relievers: Left-handers Rob Ramsay and Arthur Rhodes, right-handers Brett Tomko, Jose Mesa, Jose Paniagua and Kazuhiro Sasaki.
Strengths: All of them. They became the toast of Seattle, and finally were noticed throughout baseball, for their incredible string of 11 2/3 scoreless innings against the White Sox. Credit a solid scouting report, but also praise the pitchers for putting the ball in the right spots.
Weaknesses: Ramsay, who wasn’t on the roster for the Division Series, likely will face his first huge pressure situations against the Yankees. The M’s will need left-handed relief against the Yankees, and Ramsay will help manager Lou Piniella hold Rhodes for times when he needs a strikeout.
Lineup: Catchers – Dan Wilson and Joe Oliver. First base – John Olerud. Second – Mark McLemore. Third – Carlos Guillen and David Bell. Shortstop – Alex Rodriguez. Left field – Rickey Henderson and Al Martin. Center – Mike Cameron. Right – Jay Buhner, Stan Javier and Charles Gipson.
Strengths: The phase of the game that has been solid all season stepped it up a notch in the Division Series, when the M’s didn’t make an error in three games. Bell made several run-saving plays at third and McLemore continued to astound even his own teammates with highlight-reel plays at second. And Olerud, in his quiet style, made dives to his left and right to smother sure doubles down the first-base line.
Weaknesses: Henderson and Buhner aren’t much more than every-other-day players because of the wear on their aging bodies. Martin can play all three outfield positions, but opponents will run on his weak arm. Guillen’s glove isn’t as reliable as Bell’s, but his bat is better and that may be his ticket into the lineup, especially against right-handed pitching.
Batting order: Rickey Henderson, Mike Cameron, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, Jay Buhner, David Bell, Joe Oliver, Mark McLemore.
Strengths: Rodriguez has emerged from his late-September slump, and Martinez and Olerud showed what damage they can do with their back-to-back home runs that won Game 1 in Chicago. Cameron continues to hit the ball well, get on base and make opponents sweat. When he does that, and when Bell and McLemore contribute with the bat, the Mariners’ offense doesn’t seem so puny.
Weaknesses: An ailing James Baldwin made the M’s look feeble on Friday by changing speeds and location. They don’t hit the three-run homer like they used to, and the Mariners can only hope that they won’t need one to win a game in this series.